After Vilnius, we headed west towards Poland. Steve was gearing up to write his GMAT exam in Warsaw right before heading back to Canada so we decided to spend a week in the mid-sized city of Białystok. It gave us a chance to experience life in a non-touristy city in Poland before heading to central Warsaw. We stayed in a very nice AirBnB run by a mother-daughter team in a leafy, quiet part of the city within walking distance of the main square.
After spending the day doing our work and studying, we took some nice walks in the evening to the various parks and landmarks. The main square was usually pretty empty since the weather wasn’t great during the first half of the week.
The sun eventually came out just in time for August 15th, which happened to be Armed Forces Day in Poland. This national holiday commemorates the Polish victory over Russia at the Battle of Warsaw during the Polish-Soviet War in 1920. The sleepy main square was full of people as well as military services, tanks, and other displays.
A small festival and market were also set up adjacent to the military displays with plenty of local foods and crafts that were fun to browse.
Departing Białystok, we headed to Warsaw. At the end of the week, we would be splitting up with Steve heading back to Canada for the wedding and myself staying in Europe to meet up with my sister in the Mediterranean and see some friends in Scotland. This was the last leg of our zig-zagging itinerary across Asia and Europe (not exactly our plan when we left Canada!). The funny part was that we would be meeting up on the other side of the world in Singapore in a few weeks to finally head to Australia! But, I’m getting ahead of myself…
Neither of us had many expectations about Warsaw but it ended up being a real highlight. Warsaw is the capital of Poland but it often gets overshadowed by the more architecturally-beautiful Krakow. Part of the Old Town is intact, but a lot of the city was bombed and destroyed throughout the Second World War giving the city a grittier feel. The weather was also pretty gloomy when we were there, adding to the drama of the city in my opinion. Our AirBnB was perfectly located along the banks of the Vistula River in Warsaw, which features kilometres of walking and biking paths and lots of nooks and crannies to relax. Check out the public hammocks!
The river is also the place to be at night with free concerts all along the path. Locals just bring their own snacks and drinks for a cheap and easy night out. The band was really good!
We also explored the city on foot, including the dramatic Palace of Culture and Science. See what I mean about the clouds adding drama? #nofilter
We did go to the Old Town on our last night but it felt a bit touristy and overpriced compared to where we had been in the trip previously. The Warsaw Barbican has loads of Old World charm and looks plucked from a movie set. It was still fun to see some of the older architecture that remains but I think the best part of Warsaw is how it is reinventing itself for the future rather than relying on the past.
This brings us to the end of Act 1 of our adventure! Now we are going to skip ahead to early September when Steve and I reunited in Singapore for the second half of the trip.